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Diocesan coat of arms

Diocese of GalwayKilmacduagh & Kilfenora

Deoise na GaillimheChill Mac Duach & Chill Fhionnúrach

History of the Diocese & Episcopal Succession

The Diocese of Galway was established on 26 April 1831, and the parish chapel in Galway city became its pro-cathedral. The diocese of Kilmacduagh was joined with Galway in 1883, and the Bishop of Galway was made the Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora.

It is one of twenty-six Irish dioceses which are distributed among four ecclesiastical provinces: Armagh, Cashel, Dublin, and Tuam. The Tuam province includes Achonry, Clonfert, Elphin, Galway, Killala, and Tuam. 

The diocese does not follow county boundaries: it includes some of counties Clare and Mayo, and not all of county Galway is within the Galway diocese.

The Wardenship (1484–1831)

Sometime in the late twelfth century, a diocese known as Annaghdown came into existence in the area surrounding Galway city. In 1324 this diocese was united with Tuam, its metropolitan see. However, the Anglo-Norman families of the city of Galway (the Tribes of Galway) refused to accept direct government from Tuam, and in 1484 the Archbishop of Tuam exempted them from his jurisdiction. Pope Innocent VIII sanctioned this and made the city church of Saint Nicholas a Collegiate Church governed by a warden (who was not a bishop) and eight vicars, who were 'presented and elected solely by the inhabitants of the town', i.e. the 'tribal' families. This arrangement survived even penal times.

From the early nineteenth century, canvassing, disputes and semi-rioting became a regular feature of the election of each warden. In February 1828 the Irish bishops recommended to Rome that the wardenship be ended and a normal diocesan structure be established.

Diocese of Galway (1831–1883)

Edmund Ffrench, the last Warden of Galway, was made Bishop of Kilmacduagh in 1824 and in 1831 the Bull Sedum Episcopalium was issued by Pope Gregory XVI, erecting the diocese of Galway. On 23 October of that year the first bishop of the diocese, George Joseph Plunkett Browne, was consecrated in Athlone. In 1844 he was transferred to Elphin diocese and was succeeded by Laurence O'Donnell, a native of Oughterard, who was consecrated on 28 October 1845. Laurence O'Donnell died on 23 June 1855 and in March 1857 John McEvilly was consecrated Bishop of Galway in Tuam Cathedral by Archbishop McHale. In 1866 he was appointed Administrator of Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora and though appointed co-adjutor to the Archdiocese of Tuam in 1878 he remained Bishop of Galway until Archbishop McHale's death in 1881.

Diocese of Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora (1152–1883)

The Diocese of Kilfenora and the Diocese of Kilmacduagh were both erected and had their territories defined by the Synod of Kells in 1152. In 1751 the two dioceses were united but because Kilfenora was in the ecclesiastical province of Cashel and Kilmacduagh in the province of Tuam, the Bishop of Kilmacduagh was made the Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora, and it was decreed that the next person holding episcopal jurisdiction in Kilmacduagh-Kilfenora would be Bishop of Kilfenora and Apostolic Administrator of Kilmacduagh. This system of alternation continued down to the last bishop, Patrick Fallon, who resigned in 1866.

Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora (1883–present)

In 1866 the Bishop of Galway, John McEvilly, was made administrator of Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora. In 1883, Thomas Carr was appointed bishop, the first to be appointed with the title of Bishop of Galway & Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora.

Bishops of Galway & Kilmacduagh & Apostolic Administrators of Kilfenora

1 May 2022 – present: Michael Duignan, also Bishop of Clonfert.

11 December 2017: Brendan Kelly, previously Bishop of Achonry.

23 May 2005: Martin Drennan, previously auxiliary bishop of Dublin. Retired 29 July 2016; died 26 November 2022.

10 February 1993: James McLoughlin, previously parish priest in Galway Cathedral. Died 25 November 2005.

21 July 1976: Eamonn Casey, transferred from Kerry. Resigned 6 May 1992 in controversial circumstances. Died 13 March 2017.

6 August 1937: Michael Browne, previously professor of moral theology at St Patrick's College, Maynooth; retired in 1976 and died on 22 February 1980.

13 July 1923: Thomas O'Doherty, transferred from Clonfert. Died 15 December 1936.

29 April 1909: Thomas O'Dea, transferred from Clonfert. Died 9 April 1923.

26 April 1887: Francis McCormack, transferred from Achonry. He retired because of ill health in 1908 and died in 1909.

12 June 1883: Thomas Carr, previously vice-president of Saint Patrick's College, Maynooth; transferred to Melbourne in 1886.

5 June 1883: Pope Leo XIII joined the diocese of Kilmacduagh to Galway and made the Bishop of Galway Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora in perpetuum.

Bishops of Galway

9 January 1857: John McEvilly, who was appointed Apostolic Administrator of Kilmacduagh & Kilfenora in 1866.

27 September 1844: Laurence O'Donnell. Died 29 June 1855.

26 August 1831: appointment of George Browne, previously parish priest of Athlone, appointed Bishop of Galway.

27 April 1831: appointment of Nicholas Foran (appointment did not take effect).

26 April 1831: Establishment of the Diocese of Galway by Pope Gregory XVI.


Bishops of Kilmacduagh & Apostolic Administrators of Kilfenora

1853–1866: Patrick Fallon, Bishop of Kilmacduagh & Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora; resigned due to ill health.

1824–1852: Edmund Ffrench, Bishop of Kilmacduagh & Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora; last Warden of Galway (1812–1831).

1800–1824: Nicholas Archdeacon, Bishop of Kilmacduagh & Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora.

(1800: Richard Luke Concannon was appointed Bishop of Kilfenora, but resigned before coming and was appointed Bishop of New York. He died in Naples in 1810 while waiting to sail to New York)

1795–1799: Edward Dillon, Bishop of Kilmacduagh & Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora. Transferred to Tuam in 1799 where he founded Saint Jarlath's College.

1783–1795: Laurence Nihil, Bishop of Kilfenora & Apostolic Administrator of Kilmacduagh.

1750: Diocese of Kilfenora & Kilmacduagh united by the appointment of Peter Kilkelly, Bishop of Kilmacduagh (1744–1783) as Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora.